Battle of Kontum

The Battle of Kontum

At the end of January, 1968, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese launched an offensive throughout the entire country of South Vietnam. Every major city and every Provincial Capital was attacked.

The attack on Kontum, the capital of Kontum Province, was initially hampered by elements of the South Vietnamese Army, who prevented the enemy from taking complete control of the city. However, during the attack, enemy forces managed to occupy large areas of the city and some of the outlying territory.

The US Army force responsible for this area of operations was the 4th Infantry Division. Several units of the Division were tasked with clearing the enemy out of the city and pursuing him into the countryside. LTC William P. Junk, Commander of 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, was given ground command of the operation and was directed to assume command of all 4th Infantry Division forces in the area.

For the duration of the operation the elements at his disposal were organized into Task Force 1-22.  The ensuing 14 day battle became known as the Battle of Kontum.

From Charlie ‘Doc’ Shyab:

Serving as a Medic with Charlie Company, 1/22, 4th Infantry Division during the TET offensive April 1968.

As the many years have passed since the momentous events that our Company experienced in combat, I have thought not only the experiences we shared but also of the great heroic soldiers that we served with. I am writing down what I recall from the days in Kontum to honor the bravery and service of the men who stepped up to do what they could for the buddies we served with at the risk of their lives. Please feel free to add, edit or delete the info contained in this narrative; as well as giving me a call or note to discuss this life changing experience. There is additional info at “charliecompany.org” as well as the February 2003 , issue of Vietnam magazine or online at “1-22infantry.org “for pictures or anything needed to jog your memory or Google at , 4th inf div/1/22 inf.
On the afternoon of January 29, 1968 our company received orders to be air lifted to the Kontum airport to be part of a battalion’s defense of the city. When we arrived, we were deployed along the southern edge of the airstrip. We used our starlight scopes to observe the friendlies moving atop the water tower directly across from our bunker. Our group pulled guard during the night as the battle went on around us till morning. Sometime during the night I heard a shot nearby and when I awoke later I found a 50 caliber shell near my head. We mustered to move up to the special Forces Camp north of the airstrip. There were small arms fire all around as well as choppers attacking the NVA, moving towards the city. I recall moving west then north to assist Co. D that was across the river by the camp. On our way we were pinned down by a sniper in a church steeple that required a recoilless rifle to even the score. We entered the compound from the south to assist Co. D that was pinned down in amongst the buildings. The Hueys had shot up some of the buildings but the NVA were in the basements so for the next hour or so we dropped grenades down to neutralize the NVA. They came at us from many directions and in many ways. We were assisted by tanks and APC’s. when we 1st arrived there was a wounded enemy with part of his skull blown off that was still breathing; near him by the road was a pile of medicine vials that had U.S. addresses on them that showed we had provided medicines for them. As we moved north there was a field with foxholes dug the had NVA combatants occupying them. As they shot we returned fire, some using the M-79’s as if being at a firing range. One of the enemy broke and ran to escape so the bud with the M-79 drew a bead on him and when the shell hit there was a secondary explosion! I treated on of ours that got hit in the hand and as I was treating a casualty in an exposed position and NVA soldier popped up out of a building and was bringing down his pistol towards me there was an awful racket behind me as my posse opened up with all they had to cover me; one of my 9 lives! One of our troops even pulled an NVA solder out of a window and got himself a POW! Some of us went on patrol on the city and I was told to get on a tank to check out a firefight location. When we arrived there were many bodies scattered throughout the jungle that had all lost their lower limbs and the tree stumps were all 3 feet tall. We searched for a info they carried in their packs. It took us 3 days to get the bad smell out of our clothes. We set up camp in revetments bull dozers had dug out for us to shelter for the night.

The next morning we went back south of the airstrip then east along the river road past a riverside pottery factory where we left our packs and then moved past a shooting range. We turned back when we reached a creek that went under the road. I recall passing a bamboo thicket and hearing NVA chatter not too far away! LT. Thomas directed our 2 platoons us to some cover 100 yards north of the pottery factory for a lunch break. A squad was sent out for security while we hunkered down. No sooner had we started to eat then there was a loud explosion to our west and one of the squad members came running out on the jungle trail and told us that we had casualties. While the Lt. directed our platoon security, I followed the squad member the 125 yards or so back to the injured soldier to give medical assistance. He had severe arm and leg injuries. We worked on him for 2 hours seeing that shock was affecting him. There were 5 of us in the shell crater to give aid and protection. An M-60 team moved up to cove us, but much to our dismay we could hear the AK-47’s not only in front but to our back. Some of those who moved up to give us cover tried to move forward into the bamboo only to receive fire from a Thompson machine gun that hit 2/4 others, seriously wounding them. As the AK-47 rounds seemed to get closer one of the ammo carrier’s next to me slumped over with a head injury. I gave medical aid and threw grenades and shooting back with his .45. So with the M-60 firing and trying to give aid to the wounded there was a commotion to our right where an NVA was advancing toward the shell crater, we heard an M-16 shot and the NVA who had hit the ammo carrier dropped. All this time we had been in radio contact with the rest of the company who had hopped on a tank to support us in the ambush while not knowing our location. It seemed to take forever for the tank to arrive as they were attacked by the pottery factory and had taken casualties. It was mid-afternoon when the tank arrived and took out the machine gun and transported the casualties back to the firing range for evacuation. We even had injuries from artillery that came in short! When we returned to the range , we had lost 8 men with more wounded! Much to my surprise I saw that the RTO who had been ahead of me on the trail since November 1967 had been KIA. To our east there was some cover for the NVA that poured out small arms fire and set up a mortar position with aiming stakes. The tank took it out with a beehive round, of which we were thankful for.

We spent the night at the pottery factory. Taking turns watching the NVA through our starlight scope coming down to the rive for water. The following morning we moved north to hill 278? To patrol for NVA. As we went east on the ridge we came to a saddle so a squad led by the LT. snuck up on a spider hole with a lookout stations there; he was taken out by a shotgun blast allowing us to move up on the ridgeline. We left our backpacks back up behind us with a security squad. As I recall it was late in the afternoon so we dug in on the ridge for the night with us sleeping on the ground. After dark we were probed from the north side of the ridge so Snoopy was called in to provide cover with the Capt. Using a strobe to assist Snoopy. At about 4 AM we heard an NVA mortar fire 13 rounds as we ran for cover on the ridge only 15 yards wide. One of our men had spent much effort digging a bunker; He slept to the left side of it, so when the shells hit he rolled to his left and he starting yelling that he couldn’t find his bunker while 8 men squeezed into the small 2 man space. Then we got a call that there was movement near our packs as the NVA were moving to the east to rejoin their unit. We then patrolled the north side of the ridge finding a blood trail where they had been hit. Then on or about the 5th Of February we were chippered to Dak To, providing security for the bridge there. I don’t recall much action till the end of April when we were involved in the fight for our lives at Chu Moor Mountain where we lost 30 men in our battalion.

You may contact me at “ fossilflea@verizon.net or call at 301-890-8879 h to add or comment about this narrative as your experiences with make for a more complete picture. Those that you are in touch with may not see this so pass it on, Please!
Charles “DOC” Shyab

Serving as a Medic with Charlie Company, 1/22, 4th Infantry Division during the TET offensive April 1968.

As the many years have passed since the momentous events that our Company experienced in combat, I have thought not only the experiences we shared but also of the great heroic soldiers that we served with. I am writing down what I recall from the days in Kontum to honor the bravery and service of the men who stepped up to do what they could for the buddies we served with at the risk of their lives. Please feel free to add, edit or delete the info contained in this narrative; as well as giving me a call or note to discuss this life changing experience. There is additional info in “charliecompany.org” as well as the February 2003, issue of Vietnam magazine or online at” 1-22infantry.org” for pictures or anything needed to jog your memory.

On the afternoon of January 29, 1968 our company received orders to be air lifted to the Kontum airport to be part of a battalion’s defense of the city. When we arrived we were deployed along the southern edge of the airstrip. We used our starlight scopes to observe the friendlies moving atop the water tower directly across from our bunker. Our group pulled guard during the night as the battle went on around us till morning. Sometime during the night I heard a shot nearby and when I awoke later I found a 50 caliber shell near my head.

Background, Operational Planning & Deployment

Operations – Phase I & Phase II

Operations – Phase III

Fire Support – Artillery & Air Support

Newspaper articles & photos of the Battle

Tet 1968 Special Forces

–  Info from SSgt Tom Heckman, RTO on FAC Team

Tet 1968 1/22

–   Vietnam Magazine, The Battle for Kontum, February 2003

Sam Drake sent this February 3-5, 1968 view:

Mike Meadows, writes:

Had an unusual situation happen this past weekend. A guy who was in the guard tower at Kontum during TET sent me some pictures of the MACV compound and one after the battle. Thought you might like to post them on the C co site . He found me thru another military site about Vietnam and he was assigned to C company 43rd signal and  was on the corner with the four towers. #4 was close to the withe brick fort next to MACV that housed the interrogation center during the fighting. His name is Jack Mahan and should get the credit for the pictures.

The other pictures were taken by Charlie Company troops.

29 thoughts on “Battle of Kontum

  1. Regarding any info ..around May or June 1968 Kontum..1st Bn 14th Inf. Charlie Co. 3rd. Brgde 4th Inf. Div.or HHQ Co. 3rd Brgde 4th Inf. Div. Where First Sgt Elmo Garrett was HHQ Top Shirt.. My Name is Carson E. Garrett also assigned to the same Unit My Father and I were interviewd by Stars and Stipes where We were in the Presence of Gen Westmorland.. As being the first Father and Son in a Combat unit since World War Two..if any info please se d me some photos to my email. Thanks and God Bless…

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    • My Sister’s father was killed in Kontum on April 15, 1968 also. His name was Richard Gunnar Anderson, from Wauconda, Illinois. We have no information about the battle or circumstances of his death.

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  2. Cousin Norman Keller (Doc) killed June 4, 1968, in vicinity of Kontum while serving with 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Div., 8th Infantry. A Medical corpsman. Spec. 4 Keller suffered a right arm Wound last march when a truck on which he was riding hit a road mine.

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    • Ethan, I’m pretty sure I knew him. If he later died from his wounds, it must be the same Jimmy R Thomas I knew. We got to the ambush site right after it happened. jkk@fltg.net if you want to talk about it.

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    • Ethan, if your grandfather was a mortarman with A Troop, 2/1 Cavalry, I knew him. We got to the ambush site right after it happened. If you want to talk about it, e-mail me at: jkk@fltg.net Jim Kirch

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      • I was at company C 43rd signal during Tet.I was assigned to company A 43rd in Pleiku and was part of a reactionary force sent to pull guard duty so other members of C company could rest.We only had contact one night,guess most of it was over with by the time we got there

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      • I was with the 504th. m.p. co. We ran convoys 0n hy. 14 16. And 13. we had a town patrol in Kontum at the time of the first tet. It has very hairy.

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    • Lot of the material I’ve read about the night TET started in Kontum is lacking in some important points. My ACAV (14) and 13 were between the 17th Cavs wire and the wood line when it started. If you’re interested , I’ll tell you about it. Use e-mail : jkk@fltg. Jim

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  3. Looking for info on a battle on a hill near Kontum. My dad was a Sergeant and was awarded a Silver Star during a battle on March 22, 1968. His name is Manuel “Sonny” Alvarez. He was acting 1st sergeant of Company C, 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade. I have no clue what all of that means.

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  4. My parents were there. My Dad was a twenty something year old Linguist and mother was an anthropologist at the time working at the Language center depicted in some of the photos above. My parents had been working with the Rengau people of the central highlands. (mountainyard people) I was there but not born quite yet. Our family is forever grateful for the help and support they received from those at the special forces base, MACV and those that fought in the battle at large.

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  5. My Uncle was killed Thanksgiving Day 1978 LeRoy Fladry killed in Action in kontum If anyone has any information that would be great

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  6. My dad 1st Sgt Marion Manning was there. D Company of the 22nd. He did what he had to do in order to save as many as he could.

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  7. Two large fire bases on each side of what we called the Kontum River. I believe it was 2/5, we were asked to destroy a dud which had landed in a compound. Small arms fire and explosions nearby. We jumped on the tank that had come with us to go and help out. Told the commander to avoid the road as we had not yet swept it. Several jumped off- one wounded- and climbed into a culvert. We circled the wounded and ‘walked’ to the ridge dividing the action. I watched mortar explosions getting closer. Commander said to fire where we saw the flashes. He fired two rounds. No more mortar. Put dead and wounded on choppers still under fire. Fire support was insane. Even air support.Found two dead NVA next morning and huge bunkers with bamboo beds and ovens cut into the walls. I have some photos. 10/22/19

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